Welcome to Musings, a bi-monthly column that I hope will unpack some of my thoughts surrounding burgers and life. In this inaugural column, I wish myself into the realm of fiction for a chance to try some of the best burgers that never were (well, outside of your imagination, that is).
Like many people, I love the escapism that comes from a great story, be it a film, television show, or a good old-fashioned book. The best part of a great story is the way it pulls you in with the rich detail of the world it’s built. This post is a testament to the way some of the great fictional stories have included burgers!
Here are the top ten fictional burger joints I’d love to stop in and try!
10.) The Max, ‘Saved By the Bell’
Nothing tastes as good as nostalgia and nothing screams nostalgia louder to children of the late’80s and early ’90s quite like “Saved By the Bell.” After classes let out at Bayside High, Zack, Kelly, Slater, and the rest of the improbably-matched gang of high schoolers would congregate at The Max, the quintessentially late-’80s diner hangout where they’d munch burgers and fries and go over that week’s ensuing drama.
And who can blame them? I know I’d love to pony up a table not far from the gang’s regular spot and enjoy a nice burger served by a quirky magician. I’m not sure about the magician part, but I’ve heard there’s pop-up diner opened up in Chicago – so, unlike many of the restaurants on this list, The Max is one that you can probably visit (at least before the end of 2016)!
9.) Good Burger, ‘All That’ and Good Burger
Forget Mondo Burger! When it comes to burgers, bigger isn’t always better and no one proves that quite like the plucky boys from Good Burger. Sure, they’re ineptly managed and the staff is several fries short of a combo meal, but the burgers are natural and tasty and prepared by people who know what they’re doing (at least with regard to making burgers).
The restaurant may not be particularly hygienic (what with Ed taking baths in the strawberry shakes) and the war with Mondo Burger may leave them otherwise occupied, but I’m a sucker for a diner with a storied history. I’d be happy to sit down and have a burger served by Ed and Dexter. Plus, you know you’d love to be greeted by that immortal “Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger. Can I take your order?”
8.) Burgers ‘n’ Borscht, Watchmen
I won’t fault you if you don’t know this burger place, as it really only appears in two panels in the very last issue of Alan Moore’s medium-defining graphic novel, Watchmen. (Speaking of which, if you’ve not read the book yet or seen the movie, I must warn you that spoilers follow.) Let me set it up for you: former hero Adrian Veidt has destroyed New York City in a successful bid to unite the world and stave off nuclear war by faking an alien invasion of Earth. His fellow superheroes agree to keep this a secret as a means of protecting the peace brokered between the United States and Russia who, until now, have been at each other’s throats.
Enter Burgers ‘n’ Borscht – an American-Russian hybrid restaurant that perfectly represents each of the merged global superpowers. I’m all for trying new things and will admit to a fascination with Russian culture brought on by reading classic novels like War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and Crime and Punishment. I would love to grab one of these beet-topped burgers and maybe, just maybe, catch a glimpse of Dr. Manhattan in the meantime.
7.) Krusty Burger, ‘The Simpsons’
When the Simpson clan is hungry for a greasy cheeseburger, there’s nowhere else to turn but the restaurant bearing the mug of Springfield’s top-rated B-list celebrity entertainer – Krusty the Clown! Unfortunately, like most things that bear the name of Herschel Krustofsky’s alter ego, the product is usually shoddy at best. It’s not the healthiest place in the world, but the clientele couldn’t be more colorful.
And when I say it’s unhealthy, I mean it – the grease content on these things is legendary! But still, who wouldn’t want to grab a sandwich called the Clogger or a McRib-analogue Ribwich and just enjoy it while the parade of characters that are the denizens of Springfield put on their show? Sign me up for that one! Plus, there’s an actual Krusty Burger location at Universal Studios in Orlando, so you too can enjoy the tastes of Springfield!
6.) Gettysburger, ‘Scandal’
When Olivia Pope and her team of Washington D.C. power players get a bit peckish, they head for Gettysburger, which I’ve seen described online like a Shonda Rhimes-created In ‘n Out Burger. This is a quality D.C. burger joint which comes with the added cheek of having their burgers named for Civil War heroes.
Whether it’s the Double Lincoln or the General Lee, I’d order it up with a side of Sojourner Truth Tots and an Applemattox Pie. I’d forgo the John Barleycorn Root Beer or Antietam Cream Soda, however, in favor of a bottle of red wine from Olivia Pope’s private stock. (These have to be gourmet burgers – why else would Olivia pair them so often with wine?)
5.) Paunch Burger, ‘Parks and Recreation’
A satirical ode to Midwestern unhealthiness, NBC’s popular sitcom (set in my home state of Indiana) introduced America to the unhealthiest burger chain in existence – Paunch Burger! From their slogan – “Put it in your body or you’re a nerd!” – to their completely unrealistic portion sizes (a child-sized soda is 512 oz. – roughly the size of a small child), there’s nothing whatsoever healthy about Paunch Burger.
But still…! Anything that unhealthy just has to taste good, right? It’s not like the brains behind Paunch are subtle about it either. So whether I decide to order the Greasy Lard Bomb (the bestseller!) or the Double Bacon Grenade Deluxe, it’d almost be worth the quick jaunt down to Pawnee, IN to snag one if it meant meeting with Paunch Burger regular Ron Swanson!
4.) Bob’s Burgers, ‘Bob’s Burgers’
I’ll admit it, I was watching episodes of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ on Netflix when I conceived the idea for this post. The Belcher family bring the funny every Sunday night as a part of FOX’s Sunday Funday lineup (previously called Animation Domination). While the show focuses more on the family’s crazy day-to-day antics, I’m always intrigued by the burgers Bob and Co. serve up week after week. The Burger of the Day puns alone are enough to make me giggle… but, the thing is, everyone who wanders into Bob’s Burgers ends up more than satisfied with their meal (well, except maybe the Moody Foodie).
I’d wanna belly up to the bar next to Teddy and Mort and enjoy the show. Grab a Burger of the Day (fingers crossed it’s “the Meat-siah!”), sit back, watch Louise and Gene and Tina and Linda get up to their crazy antics while Bob just tries to run his business in peace. Now, I know that I could make a lot of these burgers at home (thanks to Cole Bowden and the Bob’s Burgers Burger Book), but atmosphere is everything! Bring on the Belcher family!
3.) Big Kahuna Burger, Pulp Fiction and other films in the Tarantino-verse
“This is a tasty burger!” Jules Winnfield describes Big Kahuna Burger as “that Hawaiian burger joint.” Now, I’m not sure what a Hawaiian burger consists of (though, if I were making it, it would include a slice of fried SPAM, Velveeta ‘cheese,’ grilled pineapple, and a Sriracha aioli), but if it’s as tasty as Jules has led us to believe, I wanna try one.
And Jules isn’t the only person in the “Tarantino-verse” with an affinity for these burgers: Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs, the Gecko brothers in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, Norman, Chester, and Leo in Four Rooms… heck, even the title characters of Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion! (Yes, really.) With locations in Austin, TX and throughout Southern California, it’s like Tarantino’s early-’90s ode to In-N-Out… and I definitely want in!
2.) The Peach Pit, ‘Beverly Hills 90210’
There’s something to be said about a landmark, an institution, a restaurant that has the kind of staying power that makes it last from decade to decade. The Peach Pit, owned by Nat Bussichio, has been servicing the denizens of Beverly Hills since the 1950s. (Marilyn Monroe and Steve McQueen were said to be regulars and Color Me Badd and Burt Reynolds have both stopped in for some burgers.)
And, seriously, if you’re going to serve awesome burgers anywhere near Los Angeles, you’re going to get famous people… and isn’t that what it’s really all about? Eating somewhere you know that people you’ve seen on screens large and small have eaten and enjoyed the same food you’re eating? Well, no… it’s actually all about the food, but if it attracts that kind of attention, doesn’t it stand to reason they must be doing something right?
1.) Burger, ‘How I Met Your Mother’
Any ‘normal’ fan of HIMYM would put McLaren’s Pub down at their g0-to burger spot from the show… and, admittedly, I thought about it. After all, the burgers there taste like they’re made of angel meat (well, according to Ted, anyway). But, as Marshall Eriksen says, “when you’ve had the best burger in New York City, every other burger tastes like my grandpa’s feet.”
And that, dear Reader, is what I want – a burger so good, it makes every other burger on this list taste like a geriatric’s bunion-covered saddle shoe-clad hooves. I want a burger so good, it inspires a man who got his wedding vows off the Internet to deliver a Salieri-inspired monologue about the merits of thereof. I want a burger, the memory of which can drive Regis Philbin to punch a major dent in a newspaper stand. That is what I want! And that, kids, is how I met your…
…wait. No. Strike that. That is why Burger from ‘How I Met Your Mother’ is the fictional burger place I most want to try.
…assuming I can find it, of course…